Bristol march marks 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage

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On the evening of February 6 hundreds took part in a march through Bristol to celebrate 100 years since the Representation of the People Act gained royal assent and voting rights were secured for some women over 30. It served as a poignant reminder of the persistent efforts of the suffragettes and suffragists to ensure this legislation came to pass, and that full gender equality has still not yet been achieved.

The march started on Berkeley Square and continued down Park Street and beyond, accompanied by songs, puppets, chants and slogans. Songs that could be heard included All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor along with others with a general theme of female empowerment, which often drowned out participants’ chants. Puppets portrayed the suffragettes themselves.

Among these were mothers and daughters holding lanterns bearing the phrase “Deeds not Words”, the slogan adopted by Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union to mark their departure from peaceful protest. Such a slogan highlights the contrast between the suffragists’ methods and the suffragettes’ more extreme practices for furthering their shared cause, and raises the question of whether violent protest can be effective or whether the suffragettes instead held back progress.

This is a question we must all contemplate, in light of this event and what happened on the same day 100 years ago.